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Cockermouth Post Article April 2014 – Dialects

Dialects bring a wonderful richness to our language and the Cumbrian dialect is a topic close to many local people’s hearts. I recently came across a poem in dialect, written by Alexander Craig Gibson (1813-1874), all about ‘Lal Dinah Grayson’ of Cockermouth:

Lal Dinah Grayson’s fresh, fewsome, an’ free,
Wid a lilt iv her step an’ a glent iv her e’e;
She glowers ebbem at me, whatever I say
An’ meastly mak’s answer wid “M’appen I may;
Thou thinks I believe the’, an m’appen I may!”

Gay often, when Dinah I mannish to meet
O’Mundays, i’t market i’ Cockerm’uth street
I whisper “Thou’s nicer nor owte here today”
An’ she cocks up her chin an’ says, “M’appen I may!
There’s nowte here to crack on, an’ m’appen I may!”

There are eight verses altogether, with the author building himself up to ask Dinah to marry him, but wondering when they get to the ‘love, honour, OBEY’ part of the wedding service how he will stop “M’appen I may’ slipping through in Dinah’s response!

A dip into William Rollinson’s Cumbrian Dictionary reveals a treasure-trove of evocative words. Here are just a few: clarty, bait, crack, moudy(warp), kecks, fratching, dookers, lowp, ratch, twine, blether, black-kites, mizzlin’, and everyone must have ‘scopped a scrunt’ at some point! From my own childhood in Birmingham I remember being labelled ‘kak-handed’ (left-handed), told to stop ‘blartin’ (crying), or to keep out of my mother’s ‘tranklements’ (bits and pieces – Cumbrian ‘trantelments’), and my grandfather in Staffordshire took his ‘bait-box’ down the mine every day. It’s fascinating how these words, or adaptations of them, migrate around the country.

We had an email from Kevin Davidson in America, whose grandfather and great-grandfather were living in Cockermouth (between 1890 and 1915), and they were members of a band, almost certainly the Mechanics’ Band. When he visited his grandfather as a boy, Kevin was given what he was told was a Cumbrian greeting. We have been able to work out the gist of it (to be honest and fair in your dealings with everyone until you meet up with your old friends in Cumberland again), but if anyone out there can give a precise translation, he would be very pleased to know it:

For thee fay tak ye by the hand
Till the fay mak ye shoot
And allus alike indurs or oot
And as lang as yer jannick, ye never need dou’t
Till ye meet with good friends of old Cumberland

This came from John William Davidson (1890-1969), formerly of Cockermouth and later of Long Island, New York, as told to his son Harold Davidson. We look forward to hearing from you.

Gloria Edwards

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